A letter to the editor in the October 30, 2018 Democrat-Gazette, a statewide daily newspaper in the state of Arkansas, U.S.A., from a school teacher reminds me of something kids did in the 1950’s. The letter mentions active-shooter drills kids must go through each semester. I remember in the 1950’s we had to go through drills that supposedly prepared us to be protected from the threat of nuclear attack from the big bad bear (the Soviet Union), who was hell-bent on wiping America off the face of the planet.
Drawing contrasts and comparisons to these threats (uniquely developed American gun violence and Cold War nuclear destruction) is obviously enticing, thus this blog. One comparison from the start is how we tend to think of the safety of our children when imminent danger lingers. After the horrible incidents of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world had a real-life example of how horribly devastating nuclear power could be to human life. The attack on these two Japanese cities removed all need for speculation. Images of the toll in the loss of life and destruction of infrastructure were there for all to see. I can recall ducking under school desks in drills that were to somehow protect us from nuclear annihilation. In retrospect, wasn’t that dumb? It seems there was no accounting for the aftermath of nuclear fallout that would sweep hundreds, if not thousands of miles of real-estate, following the initial shock of the explosion.
Today, we Americans live in a country that’s armed to the teeth. Depending on which statistical presentation you rely on, estimates are that there are enough guns in America for each citizen to own one, yet less than a third of the population actual own a gun. We’re sitting own a powder keg that sometimes explodes, leaving us with grieving on both a local and national scale. Whenever people, with mental or emotional problems have access to guns, they have real power to enter public spaces and take lives. Too often, these spaces are our schools. As the drills to protect children from nuclear attack in the 1950’s were no match for the reality of an actual attack, the numbers of American children sent too early to the afterlife seem to be evidence of the same. It’s even more tragically ironic when it’s one of the children, who brandishes a gun for ending the life of fellow schoolmates.
Strauss’ letter to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette asks the question of whether the environment in schools in America operate in a state of normality. As much as I hate to respond with an attitude that might seem hopeless, I think it is our new normality. Whenever a people seem to, collectively, think owning tools that are meant to end life is more important than life itself, liberty and the pursuit of joy, that’s sadly real, and normal. Of course, that’s my opinion. You may harbor a different one.
The threat of death and destruction are still with us, as in the days of the Cold War. Unfortunately, things are much hotter today, and the heat is being generated in our own back yard, too often by our own citizens.
If life is precious, and it seems even more so when it’s personified in our children around the world, it’s going to take more than preparedness drills to usher in a less violent normality.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.